James C. Dobbin, 1853

Dec. 28, 2020

James C. Dobbin, 1853

(a.k.a. Dobbin)

Photo of the James C. Dobbin

James Cochrane Dobbin (1814-1857) served as the Secretary of the Navy from 1853 to 1857.  He had also served as a Member of Congress from 1845 to 1847 and in the North Carolina legislature from 1848 to 1852.  A firm believer in a strong Navy as insurance for peace, Secretary Dobbin instituted reforms throughout the Navy, and during his service 18 of the finest ships of their class in the world were built. Under his auspices the Perry expedition to Japan was carried to a successful termination and the treaty with that country signed. In answer to President Franklin Pierce it was Secretary Dobbin who in 1853 ordered U.S. Navy Lieutenant Isaac Strain to command an U.S. Darién Exploring Expedition to map and survey the Darién Gap for a Panama Canal to link the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans. He died in 1857 in Fayetteville, North Carolina, his place of birth.

Class: Cushing-Class, 1853

Builder: J. M. Hood, Somerset, Massachusetts

Length: 93' 9"

Beam: 22' 6"

Draft: 9' 9"

Displacement: 174 tons

Cost: $

Launched: 13 July 1853

Commissioned: 1853

Decommissioned: 1881

Disposition: Sold

Rig: Topsail schooner

Machinery:  None

Performance & Endurance:


Complement: 13

Armament: 1 30-pdr rifle (CAMPBELL, 1861); 1 32-pdr, 1 12-pdr (CUSHING, 1863); 1 32-pdr (DOBBIN, 1861)

Design: These vessels were significantly larger than those built in the same year by Page and Allen. They were also quite different from the JOE LANE and class; about 10 feet shorter on deck and 2 feet deeper in the hold.  Note: the Cushing class vessels were named after members of the Franklin Pierce administration: James Campbell, postmaster general; Caleb Cushing, attorney general; Jefferson Davis, secretary of war; James C. Dobbin, secretary of the Navy; William A. Marcy, secretary of state; Robert McClelland, secretary of the interior.


The topsail schooner James C. Dobbin was built by J. M. Hood at Somerset, Massachusetts, under the supervision of Revenue Captain Napoleon L. Coste.  She was christened James C. Dobbin on 18 April 1853 and was launched on 13 July 1853.  She was fitted out in New York.

She was initially stationed at Wilmington, North Carolina, until 1856, she then proceeded to Savannah, Georgia.  While in Savannah harbor, now under the command of Revenue Captain John A. Webster, Jr., she was seized by a secessionist mob on 4 January 1861 and her officers and crew were held in irons.  The local Customs Collector, John Boston, protested the seizure to the governor of Georgia, Joseph E. Brown.  Brown, "with regrets for the illegal action," ordered the cutter and her crew released.  She was towed to sea and safely set sail for Baltimore, Maryland.  She was the only cutter based in the South to escape to the North before the Civil War.

On 26 April 1861 she was ordered to Philadelphia to receive heavier armament.  She was then ordered to New York, and in 1863 to Portland, Maine.  She remained in Maine waters until ordered to Baltimore in December, 1876 to become a practice vessel to train cadets for the Service.  Congress first authorized such training in July, 1876.  The first class consisted of 8 cadets and they were ordered to Baltimore to report aboard Dobbin.  She set sail on the first practice cruise on 24 May 1877 and arrived at New Bedford, Connecticut, in October 1877, where the cadets began their academic training at the newly established Revenue Cutter School of Instruction.  In the summer of 1878 she was replaced as the training cutter by the Salmon P. Chase.

Dobbin returned to service as a revenue cutter until she was sold for $5,166 to Henry Brothers of Baltimore, Maryland on 6 April 1881.  She then became the merchant vessel John L. Thomas.



Photo of the James C. Dobbin

A stereoscopic image of the Dobbin at Castine, Maine.  Circa late-1860s/early 1870s, courtesy of Ken Thompson.  Image by George E. Collins, Portland, ME.


Cutter History File, Coast Guard Historian's Office, USCG HQ.

Donald Canney.  U.S. Coast Guard and Revenue Cutters, 1790-1935.  Annapolis, MD: Naval Institute Press, 1995.

Irving King.  The Coast Guard Expands: 1865-1915, New Roles, New Frontiers. Annapolis, MD: Naval Institute Press, 1996.

Ken Thompson.

U.S. Coast Guard.  Record of Movements: Vessels of the United States Coast Guard: 1790 - December 31, 1933.  Washington, DC: U.S. Government Printing Office, 1934; 1989 (reprint).